Friday, 20 January 2012

Storm over Hertfordshire

A seven-foot drama student in a meerkat suit makes a highly effective Goal Keeper (GK),
or failing that, a team mascot
Rachel Dunn nails another one for Storm

Unlike my recent ice hockey tangents, this was the nearest we got to a fight all evening
To play in the centre, you have to be both fit and flexible
Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Thursday 19 January at University of Hertfordshire Sports Village, Hatfield
Hertfordshire Mavericks 47 Surrey Storm 62
Netball Superleague
My first ever visit to a netball match, so this goes at #1 on my new Courthopping list.  I am here because of a school trip – the young netball players of St Paul’s Walden School (hello everybody, this is what I do when I am not counting your dinner money) were here en masse with parents and friends.  I only hope that Assistant Coach Mansfield of Surrey Storm will still be speaking to me if she ever reads this!
This match in one sentence
After a close first quarter and a fairly close second, Surrey Storm imposed themselves in the first few minutes of the third and the result was never in doubt from that point on.
So what?
Much too early to say with certainty as this is the first game of a new season, but they should be chuffed to bits in Surrey with this win.
Something random

Fair play to the Sky TV presenter who involved the young supporters before conducting the post-match interview.  Looks to me like they had a great time.
The drama unfolds
I have captured four clips, one from each quarter, to give a sense of the occasion.  The first quarter was keenly contested, and very even for most of it, with Storm just beginning to edge away to a 10-13 lead as it ended.  Here are the final moments.  Surrey Storm are in the pale blue - some would say turquoise.

In the second, Mavericks pressed hard to get on level terms but Storm coped with the demands and in the end doubled their lead to go in 22-28 up at the midpoint of the game.  Again, here are the closing moments of the quarter.

Whatever was said to the Surrey side at half-time had an effect.  They raced to an eleven-point lead in no time at all and frankly from that point on, the result looked never in doubt.  Some people around me who had clearly played the game purred with pleasure at some of the moves.  They finished the quarter sixteen up at 34-50.  Here’s the clip.

If Mavericks were going to do anything to retrieve this, they had to work fast, so my final clip comes from early in the fourth where they held their own.  However the damage had been done and the final margin was fifteen, at 47-62.

For the inexperienced observer (me) it was hard not to notice the scoring percentage of Storm GS Rachel Dunn.  The official PoM award went to Storm’s Becky Trippick, and I can’t argue with that.  She wins a bunch of flowers and a giant box of biscuits to work off in the gym before next time.

A snippet from the programme
Karen Atkinson, former England captain and head coach for the Mavericks, answers a question about the exodus of top players to the ANZ league.

“I am in favour of the National Squad players going to play in the ANZ… it is the best league in the world and the only way they can replicate the pressures of competing in test matches against Australia and New Zealand … we are still striving to have every single game (in this league) played at the highest intensity under extreme pressure in order to replicate international matches.”
What I learned today - *Tongue-in-Cheek Alert*
I have never before watched a game of serious netball, so here for the previously uninformed are some quick headline points to keep you in that state.  I might be a bit confused about some of the fine detail.

The match has four quarters, which is good, as it means they won’t need to change the name.  Each is fifteen minutes in length.  Four quarters make a whole, and I have just written myself into one.  There is one point for a goal, when the ball goes through the hoop.  The pitch is divided into thirds with a semicircle at each end and a smaller circle to mark the centre.  The centre circle would be a good name for this.

There are seven players on the court at any given time.  All are labelled with a position that carries with it certain rules and restrictions.  For example the GS (goal shooter) plays in the forward third, and can go and hang around under the basket in the semicircle while the other players exhaust themselves trying to get the ball to her.  The Goal Attack (GA) is also allowed in there and the GS pretends to look pleased when the GA gets lots of goals too.  They are the only ones allowed to score.

Very few people are allowed in the magic semicircle.  Not even the Sky cameraman.
Or even Rupert Murdoch.
A player or two from the opposition either with the label GK (goalkeeper) and GD (goal defence) will be trying to stop the GS and the GA from scoring.  This involves standing on tiptoe but falling over just in time to allow the shot to proceed.  Sadly, the GK does not wear giant comedy gloves like they do in football.  The authorities need to consider this.

The Wing Attack (WA) can go in the central and attacking thirds except for the semicircle, presumably because GA and GS would sulk. The Wing Defence (WD) will be trying to stop the WA or in fact anyone from going anywhere.  There is also a C (centre) who is undoubtedly some kind of fitness freak who can go anywhere she likes except for the magic semicircles, preferably at speeds just short of a motorbike, but never on one.

There are complicated rules about feet but everyone seems to know what they are so that’s fine.  Basically you can only move around when you don't have the ball.  When you have the ball, you pivot on one foot like a demented flamingo for up to two-and-a-half seconds.  You have three seconds to pass the ball, or else something terrible will happen.  After each goal the game restarts from the centre.  Somebody must know the rule about which team restarts.  There's also a rule about the ball having to be caught in each third as it goes up and down, so no lobbing it hopefully from one end to the other.

There are two referees called umpires.  They get upset about contact but no-one gives them a hard time.  This is very refreshing, it has to be said.  There are no line judges, but fifteen people sit at nearby tables keeping count and working out all the stats.  Another hundred and fifteen televise the match for Sky.  No fights, no Zambonis, but all good.

All joking apart, enormous respect to these two teams who put on a great spectacle, well received by a sizeable, young and enthusiastic crowd with several school parties.  The game is fast at this level.  I gradually learned to watch the build-up play as well as the shots.  Compared with basketball, there is less variation in the actual way in which the ball goes through the hoop.  Therefore there is more to appreciate about the way in which the teams get the ball into the shooting semicircle to create the scoring opportunity.  It is a pass-and-move game requiring physical speed and speed of thought.

Great stuff – I love competitive live sport between teams that are enjoying what they are doing, and I got a programme too so I am a happy hopper.  Recommended for a family sporting night out.
What Next?
Back to footy on Saturday, and, weather permitting, an FA Vase game somewhere random, or if weather is dodgy, somewhere close to Hertfordshire.  Could even be some basketball or ice hockey thrown in – I’m on a sporting roll, and look out for more tangents later on this year including some more courthopping and a pilgrimage.  Announcements appear from @GrahamYapp on Twitter along with other random stuff.

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